Thursday, November 30, 2006

We Jam Econo: The Story of the Minutemen

I'll never forget the first time I heard the Minutemen. I was hanging out with the uber cool Cass Snider. I must have been 19 or so. He told me about this band that I had to hear. We were over at one of his friend's apartments. He put the first side of Double Nickels on the Dime on and I couldn't believe my ears. I had never heard anything quite like it. What the fuck was it? It wasn't really punk or was it? The political poetry of D. Boon was obvious. The brilliant drumming kicked me in the butt with asymmetrical rhythm. I couldn't believe how great it was. I still don't think any band has even come close to the sound of this band.

This documentary is really good. It mixes footage of three shows with old interviews and plenty of new ones. 21 years after the death of D. Boon in a van accident still is such a tragedy and clearly still effects those who knew him. Like any band documentary, this would be a waste of time if you didn't like the Minutemen. But for those who dig the band, this is a must watch. Punk is how you define it, it is whatever you say it is they cried out for all to hear. I had read about what the band was like live but I had never seen it for myself. And it was a sight to behold. The scenes of the large D. Boon jumping all over the place, the surfer dude on drums, and the everyman Mike Watt, holy shit, what a band.

The video for "This Ain't No Picnic."


Director: Tim Irwin
2005
DVD

Monday, November 27, 2006

Iraq in Fragments

Easily the best documentary about the war in Iraq that I've seen. At times, the composition looked so damn good that I thought I was watching a feature film. At others, I thought I was watching an art film.

The movie is split into three segments. The first one is about an eleven-year-old Sunni boy in Baghdad. His main concern is about getting hassled for his failing grades rather than the American soliders in the street. The second segment is about Sadr's Shiite militia in the south. The final part is about the Kurds in the quiet north. The film is shot verite style and is truly a great film. The last documentary to effect me like this was last year's Darwin's Nightmare. Who says political films can't also be beautiful to look at?

Director: James Longley
2006
Film Forum

Sunday, November 26, 2006

The Third Monday in October

Filmed during the fall semester of 2004, the film focuses on four middle schools during student council elections. Of course, we've all seen enough of these kinds of films to know what we're going to get with a setup like this. There will be the plucky inner city kids cleverly edited to show just how spoiled the rich kids in the movie are. On this front, the film doesn't waver much from Spellbound and Mad Hat Ballroom. But this one is worlds better than the latter and probably better than the former. Spellbound was great but the kids were limited to nerdy or weird kids that liked to spell just a little too much.

This film has a nice cross section of kids with a varying motivations for running for office. Some see it as a springboard to their future political career, some see it as a popularity contest, and some actually want to try to make change. The editing is great and I really had no clue who was going to win in each race. This is a very very good movie.

My only gripe with it is the original score is pretty bad and the soundtrack in general could use some work. Currently, the filmmakers are trying to get distribution for the film. If it is picked up, I definitely can see this being very popular.

Incidentally, one of the producers is the daughter of a really obnoxious celebrity. He was in attendance during the screening. Think obnoxious Yankees fan who shouldn't be allowed to host the Oscars anymore.

Directed by Vanessa Roth
2006
Tribeca Screening Room

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Linda Linda Linda

I missed this film when it played as part of the Asian Film Festival at Anthology Film Archives and BAM last spring. I chose not to see it when SHR and I were in Korea as well as skipping it on the airplane because there weren't English subtitles in either case.

When I was in Laos, I thought I saw part of it on TV with Jason. I mean, how many movies are there about Japanese high school girls in rock bands? Apparently, there are at least two. Because this was not the movie I saw part of in Laos. That movie was crazy. This one was mellow and understated.

As I watched Linda Linda Linda, I kept waiting for it go nuts. But it never did. No matter because this is a very very good movie.

The film is about four high school friends in a band. But one of them gets injured so they need to find another singer. Rather than go back to the well with a former bandmate/ current antagonist, the band settles on a Korean exchange student who has never sung before and barely can speak Japanese. The movie is about the band preparing for an upcoming school rock festival. Since they don't have much time to prepare they decide to do covers of an 80's band called The Blue Hearts including the song from which the movie takes its title. I'm dying to hear the Blue Hearts now.

The more I think about this film, the more I like it. It had so many amazing moments. And it made me realize I'll never get sick of good films about teenagers. The masses out there can have their Degrassis and OC's as long as I can occasionally be privvy to a movie this good.

Of course, there are boys that dig these fine young ladies. Many of the awkward moments between the sexes are so realistic and well played. In this aspect, this film reminded me a lot of one of my favorite films from 2003, Blue Gate Crossing, another movie well worth seeking out.

But I wonder, what was the movie I saw in Laos? That shit was good.

Director: Nobuhiro Yamashita
2005, U.S. Release - 2006
The ImaginAsian Theatre

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan

Much like a good Werner Herzog documentary, it was often hard to tell what was real and what wasn’t. Borat. Werner Herzog. Both are talented foreigners with a camera trying to make sense of the crazy world around them.

While 85 minutes of Borat in one sitting was a little much, I definitely have not laughed as much in a movie in a long time as I did while watching this one. Just when you think Sacha Baron Cohen can’t take it any further, he somehow does. I still can’t believe how long that naked wrestling scene went on. It just kept getting more and more absurd as it went. That is great comedy.

The theater was packed. I wondered how many people in the audience didn’t get that Borat wasn’t real and/or didn’t get the satire. It was hard to say. Everyone enjoyed the movie. Although it was interesting that all of the jokes about gays, Jews, Gypsies, and women were A-Ok but the one blatant joke about black people (calling Alan Keyes a chocolate face) led to the audience hissing.

Director: Larry Charles
2006
Court St. 12

Sunday, November 05, 2006

Sweet Land

I should have known better. I mean, take a look at that poster. It screams out "Crap!" But for some reason, I believed the great reviews I was reading. Every other one referenced Days of Heaven so I was intrigued. Days of Heaven it was not. It was a complete waste of time. It was one of those movies that you try to make the best of while it is on, the kind of movie that you should walk out of. From the very first moments I knew this movie was going to be trouble.

I was two other unfortunate souls. Jim chimes in.

This movie was so forgettable that less than 24 hours after seeing it I'm already having a hard time remembering all the specific things I hated about it. The characters were lame, there wasn't much to thestory, all the performances were bad, the pacing was slow, and everyone's accents sounded fake and belabored. Alan Cumming wasterrible. I'm still not sure if his character was supposed to be retarded or just a doofus. Within two minutes of the beginning, I could sense that whoever made this movie looks at the world in a very different way from me. The humor was forced and corny (and not funny)and the tone was way too wide-eyed and nostalgic. I need more edge inmy entertainment.

Oh yeah--and half the dialogue, at least, was people giving each other language lessons or misunderstanding each other. "Dog?" "No, duck.""Dock?" "Duck." "What is mean, duck?" etc. Imagine Borat having a conversation for an hour and 45 minutes with someone who was really earnestly trying to help him improve his English. But with all the humor drained out of it. And they're wearing
old-timey farm clothes.
Mitch's take:

I don't really know what else there is to say about
"Sweet Land," except that sitting down for beers and
dinner afterwards took away some of the sting. I just
really, really disliked it - everything was pretty
dismal, from the script to the acting to the music,
and I don't even think we discussed the fact that
there really wasn't anything that made the movie seem
like it took place in the 1920s except perhaps the
clothes and cars.

I also found it very disturbing that for some reason
both of the lead actors (and Alan Cumming in his
supporting role) seemed at times to be playing
characters who were mentally disabled, but apparently
this was not part of the script. I've never been so
happy to have smuggled in a bag of Cracker Jacks - at
least they kept me from being completely bored.
Jim also made a good point that perhaps the movie about a 1920's German immigrant facing prejudice in Minnesota is supposed to be like what Muslims have to face today. Granted, this assumption is based on the name of the director but I kind of like that idea. How else could a movie like this get made? There was no drama, no good acting, no nothing. Clearly a movie like this is not a moneymaker so it was made because the filmmakers strongly believed in it. Alan Cumming was a co-producer. Someone likes this movie but it wasn't Jim, Mitch, or me.

And another thing, just because you have many shots of farmland doesn't mean you have made a Terrence Malick film. I really hope that I don't see a movie worse than this one this year.

Director: Ali Selim
2006
Cinema Village

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

The Mummy

Other than Boris Karloff, this movie was pretty lightweight. I know it is supposed to be a classic but I was kind of bored. Karloff though is so damn creepy and he alone makes this movie worth watching.

AMC might be the worst channel on television. I can't believe this channel was once good. If it isn't the obtrusive AMC logo or the constant on screen ads for upcoming movies that get you, then it is definitely the commerical breaks every 7 minutes. Lame channel.

Director: Karl W. Freund
1932
AMC